Despite overwhelming evidence of maskless Super Bowl celebrations, Tampa mayor insists ‘majority were wearing masks’

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PHOTO BY KIMBERLY DEFALCO
  • Photo by Kimberly DeFalco

After massive crowds of mostly maskless people flooded the streets after the Bucs' historic Super Bowl win last night, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor defended the city’s efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and argued that the majority of people she saw were “doing the right thing.”

Speaking at a press conference Monday morning, Castor said that despite the overwhelming amount of videos, photos, press reports and eyewitness accounts of maskless crowds, she was in fact proud of the City of Tampa’s efforts. 

“I'm proud to say that the majority of individuals that I saw out and about enjoying the festivities associated with the Super Bowl were complying,” said Castor. “They understood their level of personal responsibility, and they were doing the right thing. So, I'm very proud of that. I thank everyone who celebrated responsibly last night. I know that the media can always find examples of bad behavior. But we had literally tens of thousands of people come out sharing the excitement of the Super Bowl win.”

On the contrary, last night tens of thousands of photos and videos also showed maskless people crammed together in places like SoHo and Ybor City. 

“It was an ocean of people,” said one resident to local news station WFTS

“You’ve got venues that are operating at 100 percent capacity, stuffing their places,” said Tom DeGeorge, owner of the Crowbar in Ybor City, to the station. “You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see a line that’s two blocks long and know there’s going to a dance floor inside. Shut them down.”

On Jan. 28, the mayor issued an executive order, which lasts until Feb. 13, requiring masks to be worn outdoors in the city’s “event zones.” Violators, said the mayor, would face a “civil infraction,” which carries up to a $500 fine. 

Last Sunday, Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan told the Tampa Bay Times that he doesn’t want his officers to be “the mask police, so to speak. We will if we have to.” 

Creative Loafing Tampa Bay sent multiple requests to the City of Tampa and the Tampa Police Department asking if any citations were given out Sunday night. So far, neither has responded.

During Monday’s press conference, Castor said she wasn’t aware of any citations.

"It all boils down to personal responsibility, we gave out over 200,000 masks," said Castor. "We communicated in every possible way that we could communicate. We had 8,000 volunteers, total for the Super Bowl, but we had volunteers and our city employees working throughout the community handing out masks, reminding people to pull them up, a lot of people wear down around their chin. So, I think overall I'm happy with the compliance."

On Feb. 4, City of Tampa spokesperson Ashley Bauman told CL that the city distributed 55,000 masks in the event and entertainment zones. On Feb. 6, Bauman told CL the city's three-day total for mask distribution was 122,560. But on Feb. 3, Bauman would not tell CL how many code enforcement officers would be out helping encourage people to obey mask orders, only saying there would be “a good amount” of them."

Dr. Jay Wolfson, Associate Vice President of USF Health, told CL that Sunday night's behavior was expected.

"Everybody knew and knows the rules," said Wolfson in an email. "Human behavior took over 'just this once' – and for most, it will not be consequential. But we had tens of thousands of out-of-state visitors, bringing with them whatever they may have acquired – and they will be taking whatever they might pick up here back to Kansas City and elsewhere in the U.S. And everybody participated in the joyous celebrations – many in large groups, in close quarters (even outdoors) cheering, yelling, singing – without masks and no social distancing. Many venue owners really did their best to control behaviors. And that was the case for the managers of the public venues as well. But we simply do not have the resources nor the cultural dynamics to expect to be able to control behaviors at a time and place like this."


This post first appeared in our sister paper Creative Loafing Tampa.


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